Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves three bills at meeting

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting May 17, 2017

Legislation to bring more teachers to Indian Country, recognize the tribes whose ancestors welcomed the first European settlers at Jamestown and improve economic opportunities on reservations are advancing on Capitol Hill.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved a trio of bills at a business meeting on Wednesday afternoon. All enjoy bipartisan support and all cleared the panel during the last session of Congress, making them prime candidates for action.

The first bill is S.458, the Native Educator Support and Training Act (NEST Act). The bill aims to recruit and retain teachers in Indian Country by providing new scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness and teacher development courses.

"This bill builds on professional workforce models that tribes have asked Congress to champion, programs that embrace a home-grown approach by investing in advancing training for tribal members," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the vice chairman of the committee and a co-sponsor of S.458.

The second bill approved is S.691, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act. The bill extends federal recognition to six tribes that were among the first to sign treaties with European nations but whose status has never been formally acknowledged by the U.S.

“Passage of this bill would give these tribes access to educational and health care services and the ability to properly pay respect to their ancestors," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the sponsor and co-sponsor, respectively, of S.691 said in a joint press release. “We won’t give up until Virginia’s tribes receive the recognition they deserve.”

Finally, the committee on Wednesday approved S.1116, the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act. The bill amends the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act, the Native American Programs Act and the Buy Indian Act in ways that supporters believe will spur economic growth and increase access to capital in Indian Country.

"This bill is a significant first step in jump-starting business development and long-range planning for tribes," Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the chairman and sponsor of the measure.

“Many Indian reservations across my home state of Arizona and the western United States continue to struggle with high unemployment rates and few business opportunities. We must do more to change this,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a co-sponsor of S.1116. “This legislation addresses these serious challenges by expanding key economic development services for Native Americans who aspire to open a business on their own on tribal lands."

All three bills can now be considered on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 458, S. 691, & S.1116 (May 17, 2017)

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